It’s no secret I’m terrified of painting my walls with dark colours. I was very nearly swayed when I visited Abigail Ahern’s house earlier this year and spent the whole train journey back concocting ways to persuade James to let me paint our entire bathroom black. Needless to say it didn’t work and I returned to my usual way of painting all walls white.

Our original guides on helping choose the right white and the ideal shade of grey have proved very popular but I don’t feel confident enough to tell you all how to use the more somber shades. Instead I’ve called upon the experts! We’ve been speaking with Farrow and Ball’s Head of Creative, Charlotte Cosby to answer a few of our questions.

Over recent years we’ve seen more and more people using dark colours in their interiors. Colours that were previously used outside on front doors or window frames have moved indoors and are having a big impact.
Dark colours are seen as an alternative neutral but with added drama. They add a level of depth to a room that whites, off-whites, creams and greys can only dream of; and they influence everything else in the space. Fabrics, furnishings, accessories and canvas prints from photos will all pop against a dark backdrop allowing you to really showcase your favourite designs and patterns. Designers of the neon and metallic accessories we are seeing have also embraced this style of decorating as they know how much more eye-catching their accessories will be.
At the heart of any dark colour scheme is the paint colour. Rich charcoals, steely greys, midnight navies and autumnal greens and browns can all be used to great effect, but creating a dark colour scheme for a room can be challenging. Should you use whites on ceilings? Or layer darker tones?
Which rooms are best suited to dark colours?
It might seem counter-intuitive but small rooms are actually the perfect place to use strong colours. Smaller rooms are often lacking in natural light and by painting them white in an attempt to create light and airy feel you can often end up with a small, dark, dull room. By using rich colours like Brinjal, Pelt or Down Pipe you can create an unexpected yet impressive look.
Dark colour also work well in bedrooms or living rooms where you are trying to create a very warm, cocooning feel. Colours like Railings and Charleston Gray will create a very cosy environment, as well as behaving like a neutral against artworks and patterned fabrics.
Should you use white with darks, or embrace an all-over dark scheme?
You can do either! Using a crisp white like All White or Wimborne White can create a bold contrast and a very clean, graphic feel. However, if you want to create a really multi-layered dark look then pairing darks with darks is certainly an option. Blacks like Off-Black and Black Blue on walls with Stiffkey Blue or Hague Blue on woodwork will have a very modern feel.
I want my home to feel light and airy, can I still use darker tones?
Yes, you can actually do something very clever and use dark tones in hallways and smaller bathrooms and cloakrooms so that the other rooms, decorated in lighter colours, feel even more bright and airy. This is particuarly true in hallways. By decorating halls and landings in a very strong tone like Railings or Down Pipe you can trick the eye into thinking all the other rooms coming off it are even lighter than they really are.
Which darks are most popular at the moment?
Down Pipe, our slate grey is universally popular and was the colour many of our customer’s chose for their first dark decorating scheme. As people have become more confident we’re seeing navies like Stiffkey Blue, greens like Studio Green and browns like Tanner’s Brown being used. Penetrating greens and browns fit this year’s trend for a very botanical, plant-inspired look in decorating.
Finally, which is your favourite dark colour and why?
This is easy for me as I absolutely love Stiffkey Blue. It’s a rich navy tone that makes everything feel expensive! It looks amazing with copper and other metallic accents. I’ve used it in my kitchen with really fresh white gloss units and I love the contrast this creates.

One of these days I’m going to brave it. I’m determined to bring some dark walls in to my life. How about you? What’s your favourite dark shade and where have you painted it?